Subject: priest / brahmin
Culture: Bengali, Nepali
Setting: Sakta Hinduism, Bengal-Nepal 18-20thc
* Stone 1934 p523
"RAM DA'O. A kind of sacrificial sword, Nepal. It has a very broad, heavy blade much incurved at the end, with an eye carved or inlaid on each side. The handle is straight and usually mounted with brass. In making the sacrifice the head of the animal should be cut off with a single blow and these weapons are admirably adapted for the purpose, the greater part of the weight being close to the end." [references omitted]
* Paul 1995 p64
"The ram dao ... is not a combat weapon but one used for sacrificial purposes. It was in use in Bengal, Assam and Nepal. It has a broad, heavy, forward curved blade about 2 feet in length. The handle is straight and long so that the sacrificial sword can be held in both hands for a downward stroke."
* Coe, Connolly, Harding, Harris, Larocca, Richardson, North, Spring, & Wilkinson p194 (Frederick Wilkinson, "India and Southeast Asia" p186-203)
"Another weapon with an extremely large blade was the ram dao, a sacrificial rather than a fighting weapon, found mostly in the north of India where the worship of Kali Mai [sic], the 'Dark Mother' and wife of Shiva, was strong. The blade is somewhat similar to that of the kora, although on some the curve is almost hook-like, but the hilt is an extension of the back edge. Almost all ram dao have an engraved eye somewhere near the tip of the blade. These weapons were used to behead the animals offered in sacrifice to the dread goddess, and many are very decorative since they were presented by devout believers anxious to please her."
* Kripal 1998 p49-50
"As an instrument of Kālī's left side, Kālī's sword is above all an instrument of the dark forces in human experience, foremost among them, death. In battle her sword slays the demons and 'cuts down evil.' But even off the battlefield, no one is safe from her sword, not even the reader or listener, for Kālī's sword swings out of the text or song and threatens to end the life of any who dares read or listen: 'She is my Ma, Kālī' with a garland of heads. Today she'll cut off yours!' Often, however, the sword is not so much feared as it is invoked. Hence the poet prays that the sword that decapitates the sacrificial goat now be turned on himself: 'My worship is over,' Ramprasad sings. 'Now, O Ma, bring down your sword.'
"Sometimes this symbolic act of self-decapitation is performed by Kālī's name, which is often associated with her sword and connected to the removal of 'sin' (pāpa): 'Where is sin with Kālī's name? Without a head one can't have a headache.' But more often this ritual violence is connected to a specifically mystical form of knowledge or experience. 'That which is right [dharma] and that which is wrong [adharma] are the two goats,' the poet sings. Both must be bound to the sacrificial stake adn beheaded with the 'sword of gnosis.' As the sword of gnosis, Kālī's sword cuts the bonds of māyā embedded in the 'good' and 'bad' of society and so releases the devotee from the dualities of ignorance. As such, Kālī's sword is an instrument of the goddess's grace, ushering in through its violence a reality untainted by the distinctions and divisions of language and society. As the goat head falls to the ground, so too does the mystic's, and with it the polarities of human thought."